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Masayoshi Son locked down iPhone exclusivity before he even had a carrier

News by Andrew Kameka on Thursday March 13, 2014.

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SoftBank CEO and Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son has two carriers, but he had zero mobile networks 10 years ago. That didn't stop Son from convincing Steve Jobs to give him an exclusive on the iPhone years before the device was announced.

Son recently conducted an interview with Charlie Rose and revealed that he met with Jobs prior to the release of the iPhone. Son brought a paper with his own drawing of how an iPod with a phone could work, but Jobs replied, "Masa, don't give me your drawing. I have my own." That led Son to say that if Apple didn't need his drawing, he wanted to be the exclusive carrier partner for when the device launched in Japan.

There was only one problem with that: Son wanted Jobs to put it in writing that he would have exclusive rights to the iPhone in Japan, but Son didn't own a wireless network. Son recalls the conversation:

"[He said] 'No! Masa, I'm not going to sign for you because you don't even own a mobile carrier yet!' And I said, 'Well, look, Steve, you promised me. You gave me your word. I bring a carrier for Japan.'"

In 2006, SoftBank purchased Vodafone Japan for 1.75 trillion yen (US $15.1 billion) and rebranded it as SoftBank Mobile. In 2008, SoftBank began selling the Apple iPhone. Rival carrier NTT Docomo didn't begin selling the iPhone until the iPhone 5s and 5c were released in 2013.

source: Bloomberg

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Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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